Little-known Kahlo painting heads to block at Sotheby's

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A man hangs a sign as artist Frida Kahlo's painting 'Nina Con Collar' sits on an easel at Sotheby's auction house in New York.

A man hangs a sign as artist Frida Kahlo's painting 'Nina Con Collar' sits on an easel at Sotheby's auction house in New York.

NEW YORK - A largely unknown portrait of a young girl painted by Frida Kalho went on sale Tuesday, with auctioneers Sotheby's expecting the Mexican artist's work to fetch as much as $2 million (R28.2 million).

"Nina con collar" ("Girl with necklace") , an oil on canvas work from 1929, shows a girl with enormous dark eyes and thick eyebrows touching, seated in a chair and gazing at the onlooker.

The painting, to be auctioned on November 22, immediately evokes some of the Mexican pioneer's best-known works, the auctioneers said in a statement.

"With those elements, as well as her dress and necklace, 'Nina con collar' simply put is nothing less than the seed of the many self-portraits Kahlo would produce later in her unique style," said  Axel Stein, director of Latin American art at Sotheby's.

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A former assistant of muralist Diego Rivera received the work as a gift a year after Kahlo's death in 1954. Rivera and Kahlo had a long love affair, and married each other twice. He stayed with her until her death.

The picture until now had only been seen publicly in a black-and-white photograph taken by Lola Alvarez Bravo, a friend of Kahlo who documented her early work.

"I never imagined it would resurface and be such a lovely and warm painting," added Stein.